Author: Dan Feldman

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 05: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks lays in a shot against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on January 5, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks on Hassan Whiteside (video)

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Hassan Whiteside‘s only rim-protection issues are choosing when and when not to go for blocks. When he and the ball are there, he’s elite.

But Giannis Antetokounmpo is an incredible dunker, and he got the best of Whiteside here.

Report: Nuggets extend contract of GM Tim Connelly

Denver Nuggets Emmanuel Mudiay Press Conference
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
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Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said his team would be better this season than last season.

So far, he’s right.

Denver is 16-25, a slightly better pace last year’s 30-52 record.

I’m not sure the Nuggets should be overly concerned about wins and losses at this point in their arc. They’re still a team in flux, trying to rebuild while still paying key veterans.

But whatever bar Connelly’s bosses deem important, he’s clearing it.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Denver Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly has reached agreement on multi-year contract extension, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Connelly’s front-office staff, including assistant general manager Arturas Karnishovas, is returning on new deals too, sources said.

Connelly has a mixed record, though it skews positive.

He hired Brian Shaw, who was in way over his head as head coach. Then, Connelly replaced Shaw with the more-qualified Michael Malone.

Connelly bungled salary-cap rules on Kenneth Faried‘s contract extension and gave up too much to dump JaVale McGee a year early. But at least Connelly used the created cap space from the McGee trade to extend the contracts of Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari – raising the trade value of both.

In hindsight, Connelly sold  too low on Evan Fournier when trading him for Arron Afflalo. But Connelly aced a couple other trades. He extracted maximum value when trading Timofey Mozgov to the Cavaliers and netted a first-round pick and Will Barton for Afflalo, who was sent to the Trail Blazers.

Connelly even navigated the Ty Lawson problem reasonably well, dealing the point guard to the Rockets for a likely first-round pick.

There’s a black mark on Connelly’s first draft. He traded the pick used on Rudy Gobert to the Jazz for a second-rounder and cash. But drafting has become a strength since. Connelly has stocked Denver with young talent like Gary Harris, Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic and Emmanuel Mudiay.

There’s more to like than dislike, and the his moves have trended better over time. Especially considering this is his first time running a team, Connelly deserves a chance to continue seeing out his vision.

NBA: Hornets got away with two key fouls in double-OT win over Jazz

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 18:  Trey Burke #3 of the Utah Jazz drives to the basket against Cody Zeller #40 of the Charlotte Hornets during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 18, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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At times, it felt like Kemba Walker against the Jazz yesterday. Walker scored 52 points in the Hornets’ double-overtime win.

But he had help – including from the referees.

The NBA’s Last Two Minute Report revealed two incorrect calls – both important, both in Charlotte’s favor.

The first came with a minute left in the first overtime:

As Utah attempted to inbound the ball, Nicolas Batum should’ve been called for fouling Gordon Hayward, the NBA ruled:

Batum (CHA) grabs and holds Hayward (UTA) affecting his ability to cleanly catch the inbounds pass

That would’ve given the Jazz a free throw and the ball.

Still, they forced second overtime – only to get hosed on another key call.

With 3:04 left, Cody Zeller plainly pushed Trey Burke, who was attempting to save a loose ball. The NBA deemed that should’ve been a foul:

Zeller (CHA) pushes Burke (UTA) affecting his ability to save the ball from going OOB.

Instead of Utah getting the ball, Charlotte kept it.

Then, for good measure, Walker hit a 3-pointer to give the Hornets a six-point lead – the biggest in the game’s final 16 minutes.

Kobe Bryant, despite sore shoulder and Achilles, playing against Kings

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 14:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers points to a teammate during their game against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 14, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Lakers trainer Gary Vitti wanted Kobe Bryant to rest for 1-2 weeks.

Instead, Kobe has played in the Lakers’ last four games.

Even as his injuries persist, Kobe is continuing to play.

Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com:

Despite being hampered by a pair of injures, Kobe Bryant (sore right shoulder and sore right Achilles) will likely play in the Lakers’ home tilt with Sacramento on Tuesday.

Head coach Byron Scott said that Bryant “is a go” for the matchup with the Kings, but called Larry Nance Jr. “very doubtful.”

Kobe has reached just two second halves and only one fourth quarter in those last four games.

The Lakers are just asking for him to be sidelined for a lengthy period.

Kyle Lowry teaches DeMar DeRozan math, ribs him about USC education (video)

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The Raptors dropped a pair of games to the Nets in 2011 in London. DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors returned there last week for a game against the Magic.

Beforehand, DeRozan and Lowry met with the media. The fun back-and-forth begins at 2:40 (hat tip: Tom Ley of Deadspin):

  • DeRozan: “We lost two of them games. I’m just trying to get a win. Whatever we – I’m trying to walk out of here 1 and 3, honestly.”
  • Lowry: “You played three games?”
  • DeRozan: “This will be my third game here.”
  • Lowry: “So, 1 and 2.”
  • DeRozan: “You know what I mean.”
  • Lowry: “No, I don’t.”
  • DeRozan: “No, wait.”
  • Lowry: “You played two games, and you add one. That means…”
  • DeRozan: “That’s three games.”
  • Lowry: “But you said 1 and 3.”
  • DeRozan: “If we win.”
  • Lowry: ” 1 for 3. 1 for 3 or 1 and 2.”
  • DeRozan: “That’s what I meant.”
  • Lowry: “1 for 3. Oh, 1 for 3.”
  • DeRozan: “Yeah, that’s what I meant.”
  • Lowry: “USC, baby.” [pats DeRozan on shoulder]
  • DeRozan: “I didn’t even go to college that long.”

DeRozan and Lowry need to do all their interviews together.

By the way, the Raptors won, bumping DeRozan’s London record to 1 and 3 1 and 2.